Readers write: February 2, 2015 issue

January 28, 2015 | Viewpoints | Number 3

More support for Conscience Canada efforts needed

Re: “Fight, fight, fight the madness of war” letter, Dec. 15, 2014, page 13.

With respect to the madness of war, I agree completely with D.E. Hubert’s letter. It is a powerfully written statement with important truths for all who have ears to hear. It seems that Canada is presently determined to give away what little remains of its tattered reputation as a peace-loving/peacekeeping nation, in order to prove that it has now grown up and must be recognized as a warrior. In my opinion, his third paragraph should be highlighted, as it provides a classic example of our federal government’s priorities: We have plenty of funds, and are asking for more, to send our children into harm’s way and almost none to help them when they return as damaged victims of our aggression on foreign soil. When I read “Peace brings local community together” on page 21 of the same issue, I can’t help but wonder why, when a few dozen people from one small Canadian region participated in a prayer walk to express their desire for peace, Conscience Canada is unable to motivate more Canadians from across the country to register their displeasure at having their taxes used for military purposes.

Eric Unger, Winnipeg

Canadian military offer their lives sacrificially . . . as did Christ

Re: “Fight, fight, fight the madness of war” letter, Dec. 15, 2014, page. 13.

D.E. Hubert wrote an eloquent letter promoting nonresistance and I passionately agree with him that taking up arms is the least desirable means to resolve a conflict. Both of us were brought up to resolve differences without resorting to violence, but unfortunately we live in a world where not everyone shares that position. I support the necessity of the Canadian military and the local police because they fill the role of protectors of those who are unable to defend themselves. I grieve with Hubert at our loss of the 158 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan, but I wonder how many thousands of Afghani civilians would have been killed by the Taliban for disagreeing with their theology had Canada not intervened. Hubert correctly points out that Canada sent CF-18s to Libya to remove “a vicious dictator.” I wonder how many Libyans would have died had the United Nations coalition not intervened. His next point, in which he condemns the Canadian military for not intervening in Gaza, which resulted in Palestinian and Israeli citizens being killed, seems to support my position. He goes on to condemn the Canadian military for intervening in Iraq, where the so-called Islamic State is in the process of killing every man and raping every woman it captures, including children. Those who support passivism will quote Luke 6:27-36 or Matthew 5:43-45, which refer to loving your enemies. Anabaptist founders Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz and Dirk Phillips all interpreted those passages as a basis for pacifism. In stark contrast, they ignore Romans 13:4, that clearly suggests that righteous men should take up arms to punish the evildoers. How do we resolve this contradiction? I would suggest that the Bible tells us that those who have the ability to do so, have the responsibility to protect those who do not have the ability to protect themselves from pain, suffering and death. But if evil acts occur, then we have the responsibility to forgive, extend grace and show love to those who trespass against us. I can’t understand how people can enjoy the benefits of living in a peaceful society and then condemn the Canadian military and local police, the very people who are willing to sacrifice their own lives—as Christ did—in order to protect ours. Father, forgive all of us, for we know not what we are doing.

John Piera, Calgary

It’s not our grace . . . but God’s grace that we extend

Re: “Is it really a choice?” letter, Dec. 15, 2014, page 13.

In his letter to the editor, Walter Klassen wrote in part, “I find it very difficult to accept the fact that God would deny LGBTQ people, whom he created, the right to love and be loved. Maybe God is finding out how far we, as heterosexuals and Christians, can extend our grace.” I’m not sure we have grace to extend. In II Corinthians 12:9 we read about God’s grace, and II Timothy 2:1 tells us to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” It is God’s grace that helps us separate the person from the behaviour. Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman (John 8: 1-11), but, instead encouraged her to not sin again. There is always the possibility that we can become deceived when it comes to sin. Sin is “missing the mark.” I Corinthians 6:9-10 tells us, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” All of those listed “missed the mark.” We have all missed the mark; verse 11 says, “And such were some of you.” A recent same-sex marriage (“It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful,” Jan. 19, page 13) may have marked a point in history for the Mennonite denomination in Canada, but it has also set a precedent. If Mennonite churches are publicly welcoming of LGBTQ people, they must also welcome the others listed in I Corinthians 6 with open arms.

Wes Epp, Calgary

Paul provides an answer to question of sexual misconduct in the church

Re: “For discussion: An ‘experiment’ in sexuality gone wrong,” Jan. 5, page 6.

Question 2 asked: “How does your church work at being a safe space, free of sexual misconduct? If something like this should happen at your church, how would the congregation respond?” Paul said what to do in I Corinthians 5:9-12 ( “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”

Elaine Fehr (online comment)

Bible played major role in leading reader to Christ

Re: “My year of reading the Bible,” Jan. 5, page 8.

Well put! I read the Bible in its entirety once in my late teens out of a desire to settle my own beliefs. What I found was a desire to live for Christ in a way that was not possible before, and I can’t say that I’ve stopped reading it daily since I started—more than seven years, with more to come, God willing. I credit the pages of the Bible, and wrestling with the God in its writings, with leading me to Christ more than anything else in my life. Is daily Bible reading necessary? I’m not sure. Is it beneficial to a person’s faith and instruction? Definitely.

Ryan Carney (online response)

Which church is closer to God’s dream for our world?

Much has been made about “what the Bible says” in the context of a tradition that has often confessed it believes the Bible to be the final authority in matters of faith and ethics. Rarely has this reference to “what the Bible says” been particularly helpful, since what the Bible says seems to have far less to do with what is printed in Scripture and much more with who it is holding the Bible and reading it. I am less and less inclined to think of the Bible as having “final authority” in matters of faith and ethics. Instead, I think the Bible’s authority is primarily the authority to point us to Jesus, who revealed God to us. The question in matters of ethics, then, is not what the Bible says, but what is consistent with God’s dream for our world as revealed in Jesus. This was brought into clearer focus for me as the result of three events that recently touched my life:

  1. At the meeting held in Saskatoon to discuss Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s decision to adopt a hiring policy that will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (“Equipped to listen, but not to agree,” Nov. 10, 2014, page 21), three pastors or former pastors were clear in their indictment of any area church or congregation that would pass or support such a policy.
  2. I had a conversation with a father who told me that his young-adult daughter, a lesbian, had recently attempted suicide because leaders and others in their congregation and denomination were making unkind comments.
  3. On New Year’s Eve, two Saskatchewan Mennonite men were married at Osler Mennonite Church by the pastors of Nutana Park Mennonite Church, Saskatoon (“It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful,” Jan. 19, page 13).

If I have to choose between the church called for by the three people in No. 1 and the church in No. 3, I will choose a church that helps, encourages and supports men and women of whatever orientation. Based on my understanding of the Jesus story, a church that encourages and supports people making and entering a life-long covenant of love is much closer to God’s dream for our world than one that drives the people God loves to give up on life and want to kill themselves.

Ray Friesen, Swift Current, Sask.

Online/Facebook comments on first MC Canada-officiated gay wedding 

Re: “It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful,” Jan. 19, page 13.

Congratulations, Craig and Matt! Thank you, Anita and Patrick!
Gail Schellenberg

I am confident that we are going to repeat history, since we have not learned from it the first time. Here we go again, Sodom and Gomorrah.
Pam Fast

Acceptance that some people are naturally gay or bisexual has been steadily growing in society and in religion. Establishing gay rights, including the right to marry, is more progress. Thus, I wish the newlyweds all the best, like any couple.
Howard Boldt

Has the Mennonite church in Saskatchewan abandoned its statement of faith? That statement clearly states that it upholds the biblical standard of marriage as between one man and one woman. What will happen to a church that refuses to uphold its own confession of faith or rejects a confession of faith which is biblically faithful in favour of one which is not? It’s all well and good when non-believers accept sin as normative and even right. It’s an entirely different thing when believers—or unbelievers posing as believers—begin to call evil good and good evil. May God grant repentance to this “couple” and the church and denomination which have chosen to call this sinful action good.
Daryl Little

I am so happy for Craig and Matt, and I am very happy also to attend Osler Mennonite Church, Sask. (where they were married on New Year’s Eve).
Sarah Buhler

There is a misunderstanding about some people “being born that way.” The Bible clearly labels homosexual activity as sin. It also labels adultery and fornication, along with many other deeds and actions, as sin. Sin is common in human behaviour because we are all born with a corrupt human nature. So, in that sense, some people are born with the nature to engage in homosexual activity as are others to commit adultery, fornication, murder or theft. However, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for all of our sin, and then he rose from the dead. All who repent of their sin and receive him by faith can be born again spiritually and receive a new sinless nature with the power to have victory over their sin so that they can be changed and stop their sin. The message of God and Christ in the Bible to all sinners, including homosexuals, is that God loves you so much that he gave his son to die for your sins. He can and will change you into a new person with a new nature if you will repent of your sin and receive Christ as your personal saviour by faith! It is a free gift by the grace of God! It is sad to me as a Mennonite pastor (First Mennonite Church, Burns Lake, B.C.) that many don’t seem to get it and are not preaching this very simple yet profound gospel message to their people.
Steve Swires

I am sorry. I pressed “like” in error.
Ruth Fisher

I pressed “like” on purpose.
Helen Rehan

I pressed “like” ’cause I was there—and it was faaaabbuuullloouuss.
Ben Borne

I pressed “like” because Ben said it was fabulous and I trust him.
Jefé de la Martens-Koop

Craig and Matt, I don’t know you, but heartfelt congratulations! Mennonite Church Canada, it took until 2015, but glad at least one congregation has cleared this milestone.
Michael Driedger

The time is now to show the love

The process of re-examining what it is to be Christian and how we interpret Scripture can be seen occurring from as far back as the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 to recent discussions around the topic of sexuality and sexual identity. Today, we have scholars such as Reverend Jeff Miner (The Children Are Free) or Brian D. McLaren (A New Kind of Christianity), who challenge how we look at Scripture. Some Christians believe that the Bible actually does not condemn loving relationships between people of the same sex. Their arguments are worth analyzing, but, for many Christians, these discussions go beyond personal and church-based “comfort zones.” If we look at how Jesus responded to the concerns of the Pharisees’ interpretation of scriptural law, we can move forward in how we deal with acceptance of people who identify themselves as lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer. In Mark 7:19, the writer states that Jesus “declared all foods clean.” Jesus had made a very pragmatic argument about what comes out of the heart as opposed to what goes in the stomach, challenging interpretation of the law. Today, we see institutions such as Mennonite Central Committee and World Vision making abstention a requirement for employment of gays and lesbians. This example of “love the sinner, hate the sin” is one that does not encompass mercy and compassion. This statement still stigmatizes the individuals and puts conditions on the love they seem to espouse. It’s up to the leaders of the church and other Christian institutions to examine how we stigmatize people and how we can change, and if it doesn’t happen at the top, change needs to happen in individual churches. With the tools of modern times we can move on from archaic ideas, using practicality, compassion and love, as Jesus did. We can come together—Jews and Gentiles, Christians and Muslims, gays and straights—with what Jesus taught was the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Along with the first commandment of loving God, we can re-examine how we interpret Scripture, considering all law “can hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We can do this. We can open our hearts, stop stigmatizing and help create “earth as it is in heaven.”

Dennis Wiens, Leamington, Ont.

—Posted Jan. 28, 2015

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